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Another One Bites the Dust (For Now): PIPA Vote Postponed, SOPA “On Hold”

Rights of Passage

While the list of lawmakers opposing the internet censorship bills PIPA and SOPA continues to grow, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) tweeted this morning that he will be postponing the January 24 vote. No new date has set, but this follows his decision not to force Democrats to vote for the bill in order to prevent a potential veto by President Obama. It also appears that SOPA’s lead sponsor in the House, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), has put the bill on hold following Reid’s announcement. However, Reid is pledging to continue working on the bill and released a statement about his intentions. Unfortunately, his intentions still involve voting on and passing PIPA in some shape or form. Let’s also point out the irony of Harry Reid making this announcement on a site that thrives on sharing so much copyrighted material.

As we’ve been reporting, the House version of the bill, SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act), was opposed by the Obama administration, then shelved, then rescheduled for debate some time in February following the widespread internet blackout. Now, it appears the bill is on hold indefinitely. Said Smith in an official statement:

“I have heard from the critics and I take seriously their concerns regarding proposed legislation to address the problem of online piracy. It is clear that we need to revisit the approach on how best to address the problem of foreign thieves that steal and sell American inventions and products. …”

Clearly, this bill has not been completely abandoned, but now, it looks like it will not be back for debate in February. No dates were mentioned.

The Senate version of the bill, PIPA (Protect IP Act), however, had remained on the schedule, ready for a vote next Tuesday. And then, supporters started backing away from the bill. As it stands right now, more lawmakers in both chambers have come out in opposition to the bill — 122 — than have publicly stated their support — 63. On top of this, the current president has stated his opposition and now, all four GOP candidates running for president have stated their opposition.

Normally what happens when the Senate wants a bill passed — at least, this Senate — is the leadership tries to “whip” other senators into voting for the bill so it can reach 60 votes, defeating the filibuster and disallowing a presidential veto. (Under normal circumstances, bills can pass with a simple majority of 51 votes, but that is not how Harry Reid rolls.) But this time, after criticism by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) (and that whole internet blackout, fleeing supporters and sponsors thing), Reid said he would not force Democrats to vote in support of the bill.

That brings us to this morning, when Reid tweeted that the vote would not take place next week. He also released the following extended statement, since Twitter is considered less than officially official:

There is no reason that the legitimate issues raised by many about this bill cannot be resolved. Counterfeiting and piracy cost the American economy billions of dollars and thousands of jobs each year, with the movie industry alone supporting over 2.2 million jobs. We must take action to stop these illegal practices. We live in a country where people rightfully expect to be fairly compensated for a day’s work, whether that person is a miner in the high desert of Nevada, an independent band in New York City, or a union worker on the back lots of a California movie studio. I admire the work that Chairman [Patrick] Leahy has put into this bill. I encourage him to continue engaging with all stakeholders to forge a balance between protecting Americans’ intellectual property, and maintaining openness and innovation on the internet. We made good progress through the discussions we’ve held in recent days, and I am optimistic that we can reach a compromise in the coming weeks.

Did you happen to read the part about the “California movie studio”? In case you were wondering who was really supposed to benefit from SOPA/PIPA, here is your answer: the entertainment industry. The people who don’t like to see a tech-savvy audience circumventing the monetary purchase of their products by torrenting and streaming content on the computer machine for free. And as we know, Hollywood has a lot of money, and people who partake in elections would like to have some of it. It’s probably also worth mentioning that the head of the Motion Picture Association of America is a former colleague of Harry Reid’s, Chris Dodd, former senator from Connecticut. Like two former lovers who still enjoy the occasional dirty motel romp behind the backs of their respective new spouses …

What’s happening here is a battle between Silicon Valley and Hollywood. The tech industry versus the entertainment industry — and where their campaign contributions will go. Who will be able to buy more elections this fall? The world is watching …

(TPM via The Daily What, Ars Technica, Tech Crunch, Gizmodo)

Previously in SOPA/PIPA

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